Video Voyageur: 3Qs with Emm Gryner

Award-winning singer and songwriter Emm Gryner has a new single to share, imbued with the rhythms of the early 70s. “Burn The Boats” took inspiration from Gryner‘s desire to communicate the story of the birth of a new race of people and the woman who was the mother of this story. 

Written with Michael Holmes, this laid back yet mysterious yacht rock song is a contemporary retelling of the life of La Malinche, Dona Marina, a Nahua woman enslaved to Cortes in 1519. She would become both his guide and interpreter in Mexico, and ultimately gave birth to his son, Martin, who is considered one of the first Mestizos (people of mixed European and indigenous American ancestry).

We speak with Emm about “Burn the Boats,” which you can dive into below!

Tell us the story of this song, why did you choose to visualize this song specifically? 

From co-writers Michael Holmes and Emm Gryner: ““Burn the Boats” takes place after those great outlaw/caper/escape songs of the later 70s and early 80s end. The running from the law, the man or the bad guys is done and it’s time to reflect, staring into the pacific on the other side of the border. We’re in Mexico now, and time’s slowed right down. But in this moment of reflection the hero isn’t the outlaw or the narrator of all those great tunes: it’s the woman who gave birth to it all. From beachside, Burn the Boats turns Cortes (and Cortez the Killer) inside out by making the man meaningless. Instead, La Malinche Doña Marina sings the songs of her people: burning the conquistador’s boats and finding freedom in the sun and the sea.”

What was the inspiration behind this video(visuals, storyline, etc.)? 

Co-writers Michael Holmes and Emm Gryner: “The inspiration for the visuals really goes back to the story of Dona Marina–the woman who, enslaved to Cortes, became both his guide and translator and the mother of his child, and ultimately an entire new people. The backdrop for all the visuals is an imagining of history from her perspective.”

From video director Frank Gryner: “For me, the challenge with making creative music videos is unifying the sound of the music with the message of the lyrics into an original visual concept that looks cool. With this song, the subject matter goes much deeper than the sound of music would have you believe. I think the trick was to depict aggressive actions at half speed in order to stay true to the narrative present in the lyrics, yet have them conform to the soft rock vibe at the same time.”

What was the process of making this video?

From video director Frank Gryner: “Everything (including Emm’s self-shot performance footage) was recorded at a high frame rate and slowed down to emphasize the drama of the situation. The water, the flapping of the sails – basically all the movement eventually got played back at half speed in the end. Everything except Emm was animated. The footage of her performance was embedded into the surface texture of the CGI boat sail which was configured to react to real world forces like wind and gravity. It’s like if your flat screen TV could move like fabric. I wanted it this way as opposed to having the footage look like it’s being projected onto the sail. Rendered short clips from the 3D software then got speed adjusted, synced with the original audio and composited with additional visual effects in the video editing program. Initially, a lot of time was spent getting the water to look that way that it does and also the movement of the sail as well. It was important to nail these aesthetics as the entire visual premise of the video relied so heavily on these things.” ᐧ


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